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kids_eat_free_or_for_a_flat_feeLast summer Marriott was among the chains pushing free breakfast, and that’s still the case at their Residence Inn, Fairfield Inn & Suites, and SpringHill Suites properties. Likewise, select JW Marriott and Marriott Hotel & Resorts will feed breakfast to a couple of adults and all kids under 12 through September 5 for stays booked before August 22.

My kids’ problem with breakfast, especially on the road, is that it’s the meal that commands the least amount of interest, so by 11:30am they’re lobbying for lunch, and for my brood that’s easily sixty bucks. If your family’s like mine, then you might already be a fan of Holiday Inn, where up to four kids 12 and under eat free any time of day at the hotels’ on-site restaurants.


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The Holiday Inn deal has three terms that are fairly typical of such offers: Kids need to order off the children’s menu; at least one grown-up has to order a qualifying entrée off the regular menu; and room service is not part of the deal.


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These same rules apply to the newly launched Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) Kids Pass (www.SPG.com/kidspass), enabling kids 12 and younger to eat for a flat daily fee ranging from $10 to $20 at 150 participating resorts (Starwood Preferred Guest membership is free). Kids wear bracelets to identify themselves as dues-paid pass members, and one benefit most kids will love while roaming hotel grounds is that they’re permitted to order (non-alcoholic) beverages without an adult chaperone.

Be aware, however, that within any given Starwood resort the deal may only apply to selected meals and restaurants. At the Walt Disney World Dolphin in Orlando, for instance, the Garden Grove has a children’s menu along with popular character meals, but the Kids Pass isn’t accepted there, or at Shula’s Steak House, Kimonos sushi, or Il Mulino’s Trattoria. You can use the pass at the property’s Fresh Mediterranean Market as well as Todd English’s above average bluezoo, where kids might select from grilled beef tenderloin or chicken breast. The pass is also good at the poolside Cabana Bar & Grill, the self-serve eatery Picabu, and the Fountain malt shop.

Parents must buy the SPG Kids Pass for the length of their stay – you can’t pick and choose days to use it. So if you buy the pass for three kids each day and end up eating only one meal a day on site, is it worth it? If the pass is only $10 per kid per day, almost certainly. If it’s $15-$20 per child, it depends on the meal and the property, which is why it pays to chat with the Starwood concierge before booking to find out which participating restaurants will give you the biggest bang for your buck.

Beyond hotel meal deals, another resource I recently learned about is MyKidsEatFree.com, a site that permits you to search by state and city for restaurants running kids-eat-free deals. Even if you’re not traveling, you may discover as I did a couple spots in your neighborhood that on select nights permit your kids to eat free when accompanied by a grown-up.

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